If you are in the video business, either as an independent freelancer such as a DP, editor, gaffer, etc. or you own a video production company, you’ve probably heard about the importance of a great video production demo reel. Everyone will at some point need a good reel to showcase their work and hopefully, if done right, get new work.
But how to make a demo reel for video production that’s actually effective is often time much harder than it may seem. Getting the right clips at the right time for your intended market is so important to not only keep the viewers attention, but to ensure that what you’re showing is what they are looking for.
So, how do you start? What do you put into it? How long do you make it?
These are all really important questions that everyone must answer to be able to make effective demo reels that will actually get you more business.
Here’s seven tips to help you get yours going.
1) Know who your target is
BEFORE you start with you reel you need to understand who the demo reel is for and what its goals are. This is a similar mantra to other marketing methods.
Basically, if you don’t know who you reel is for, you can’t possibly expect to be able to produce what they want or need to see.
So, if your target is gaining new corporate clients, then provide your best corporate work and leave out the really artsy stuff. Conversely, if you’re trying to showcase your amazing abilities as a DP to be hired by other production companies, then maybe focus on the cooler shots with movement, focus pulls, etc.
2) Understand the point of your demo reel
This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the above point. You need to know what your goal of your video production demo reel is.
You can’t expect to hit a goal you’ve never set.
So, figure out those goals. Write them down. Then make your video all about achieving that goal.
You should also read my article What does a USP do for your business as the topics discussed there are sort of inline with point #1 & #2 here.
3) Organize your video content
This may seem self explanatory, but working efficiently and in an organized way will help you not only find the best bits for your reel, but to also produce the best possible result.
Media management is key here. Organize all of your footage first. Go through your work, gather your footage you think may be of use, and collect it in a single project. This will make backup later much easier.
After you’ve got it all in once place, you need to go through all your footage and start marking the best pieces. Try either making sub-clips or using in and out points and writing select clips to a rough cut timeline. Either way, your goal here is a broad pass at getting everything that could be useful and marking it for later.
4) Put the best shots at the beginning and end
Now that you have all those clips in the timeline… it’s time to start prioritizing. As you probably know, our attention spans are short. If you want to keep your users engaged, you need to put some great stuff right at the start.
Putting a boring 20 second long clip at the beginning of your video production demo reel is probably the fastest way to make your viewers hit the back button.
5) Make your demo reels short
While we’re talking about attention spans, you should keep your demo reel short. I can tell you from first hand experience that there’s nothing worse than watching some 5-10 minute demo reel.
You should find the best shots that showcase your work and ONLY use those shots. If your demo reel is over a few minutes, you’re probably doing something wrong.
My personal preference is somewhere between 30-120 seconds, depending on the target audience. For example, if I’m showing a reel on the home page for an overview of what I do, it’ll be 30-60 seconds. If I’m putting together a reel for already interested parties to showcase some further specifics of a corporate reel, then I may opt for a long one around 2 minutes.
6) What not to include in your video production demo reel
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen demo reels from others (mostly ones that were too long) that had some really bad shots in them.
Please don’t put in those shots that are overexposed, out of focus, extremely noisy, shaky, etc.
This should be in line with #5. If you have a bunch of mediocre or bad shots in your demo reel, try slimming it down a bit and focusing on the best work you have.
7) Don’t claim work that isn’t yours
There’s no quicker way to get a black-listed or get a bad reputation than putting work on your reel that isn’t yours.
I once had someone working for my company Multiverse Media Group as a camera op on a corporate job. On that job, we scripted it, we produced it, we directed it, we controlled the entire look and feel of everything including what camera shots we wanted.
The video turned out fantastic and the client was thrilled, but the camera guy later put that footage on his director demo reel. Needless to say, we haven’t called him back.
Well, that’s it for now. If you have any other ideas, let me know in the comments below.